Continuing with the My Princeton Summer series, please enjoy another farcical selection motivated by a silly prompt, and a lack of time!
To set the stage, I must issue another reminder about what else was going on in my life at the time. I was in Princeton not for a wacky writing adventure but for a summer science research program. That meant I was spending most of my time in the lab.
A lot of time in the lab.
Thus, when I was issued the prompt, “Your life suddenly takes on the properties of a cartoon,” my mind went straight to my job. What resulted was something that, in my mind, looked like an epic cartoon cell culture fight scene (but on paper just ended up weird).
I promise cell culture isn’t usually this fun, guys.
Surely I had inhaled a little bit too much formaldehyde outside of the fume hood or something.
I looked down at the cells that I was treating. A moment ago, I could have sworn that I heard them screaming for help. But that was nonsense. It was a cell culture, not a living, breathing organism. I blinked at the cells a couple of times, and to my vast dismay, I could hear them screaming again.
I was the only one in the tissue culture room. For that, I was thankful. No one was around to witness me losing my mind. After another look around—behind the benches, over by the centrifuges, and even between the refrigerator and the incubator—I took the plate of cells over to the microscope. I was hearing things. I had to be hearing things.
But what if I wasn’t.
I slid the plate of cells under the green fluorescent light. The focus knob spun back and forth under my fingers until I could make out the moderately-circular shapes. As they came into focus, however, I leapt backwards. The rolling chair toppled out from under me, and I crashed into the fume hood behind my back. My head collided with the edge of the hood sash with a sharp flash of pain. Great, I thought. Now I have a concussion. That should be a HUGE help for these hallucinations. After a deep breath, I paced back over to the microscope and looked through it once more to verify that the cells did, indeed, have faces now.
“You have to help us!” one of the larger ones cried. Why could I hear the distinct voice now when all I’d been able to hear earlier was a general clamor? Oh, because they were under a microscope. Because that made sense, right? “You have to save us! And save yourself!”
“From what?” I demanded. “Why are you talking? What’s going on?”
“The Smith lab is taking over the second floor!” another cell shouted. “No cell or tissue or human being is safe!”
At that moment, a figure appeared in the doorway to the tissue culture room. I looked up from the microscope. Carl, the lab technician in the Smith lab was there, his eyes empty, a P1000 pipette in his hand. No, I thought. He was always one of the nice ones!
There you have it: what laboratory science would look like as a cartoon action movie! Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for more wacky Princeton writers’ shenanigans. Next week, I plan to give you a taste of how I actually plan to combine my passions for writing and science into something resembling a career (and not a cartoon action movie).